The challenge: In 2006, homeowner Richard Schooley bought a three-level open loft in a downtown Minneapolis building that was formerly a tractor factory.
“I fell in love with the blond brick, timbers and concrete floor, and I like things that are repurposed,” said Schooley. But there still was room for improvement.
Schooley’s plan was to somehow soften the concrete block and steel interiors, add more storage space and create a privacy screen between the bedroom and living room. “Loft living within industrial spaces can feel cold and bleak,” said architect Mark Larson, who was enlisted for the job. “He wanted it to be more soulful.”
The design team: Larson and architectural intern Will Spencer, Rehkamp Larson Architects, Minneapolis, 612-285-7275, www.rehkamplarson.com. The contractor was Reuter Walton, Minneapolis.
The solution: To transform the feel and function of the loft living room, Larson added a half dozen elements that provide privacy, visual and real warmth, plus display space and storage.
Furniture-style screen: Between the lofted bedroom and living room, Larson replaced a black iron railing with a new box-shaped divider made of African mahogany. “Now the bedroom is behind a privacy screen,” he said.
Floating fireplace: A custom-designed steel box holds a gas fireplace unit that appears to be floating above the floor. Larson mounted it to the wall with a steel bracket. “The floating fireplace form has a sense of beauty,” said Schooley. With the fireplace positioned higher on the wall, it can be viewed from both the living room and bedroom. This enhancement not only produces heat for a space that is often chilly, due to the large glass patio doors, but “it gives the room ambience and a lovely focus,” said Larson.
Asian-inspired chimney: A photograph Schooley showed Larson inspired the yellow-hued fir slats that now conceal the steel chimney, giving it a lightweight quality. “The flats have an interesting random pattern, like a bar code,” said Larson.
Smart storage: Floating the fireplace created space underneath that could be used for storage. Larson designed a long black metal bookcase, which matches the fireplace box, to hold books and art pieces. Thanks to heavy-duty skateboard wheels, the unit is easily rolled to any part of the room. The bookcase even has built-in plug-ins. “I move it back and forth when I change the furniture,” said Schooley. New floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookcases provide more storage on both sides of the doors opening to the patio.
Lighten up: A streamlined black metal circular chandelier softens the hard-edged square shapes in the room and provides better lighting. “That light fixture rocks my world,” said Schooley, who found it in a New York lighting studio.
The result: “New elements in just the right place can reinforce the good things about a space and bring what’s missing — which was warmth,” said Larson.
Best part: “I love the gorgeous fireplace and big round chandelier,” said Schooley. “It’s modern, warm and comfortable. I feel at home.”